Hot feet in the sea – Barcelona Beach
By now we’d had enough of craning our necks to stare up at buildings and, being Sunday, shopping was out of the question as the only shops open are cafes, bars, restaurants and big shopping centres. I’m not a fan of big shopping centres, give me little local shops any day. We decided we would round off our day with a few hours relaxation at the beach so we consulted our maps again. We took the metro from Passeig De Gràcia to Estacio de Franca and, despite all the miles wed already walked, decided to walk from there rather than change trains.
Not long after we started our slow stroll along Passeig de Circumval Lacio around the outside of Parc de la Ciutadlla we realised that getting away from mind bending buildings was an impossible feat in Barcelona. The first to set our cameras clicking again was a lofty glass construction with several horizontal limbs that seemed to hang in the air with no visible means of support. The walls of glass acted as a mirror for the blue sky and fluffy clouds and, as we passed, the various parts of the building were reflected in each other creating a strange mirage effect with an enormous butterfly perched bizarrely at the top. Turns out this was Gas Natural HQ, one of the tallest buildings in Spain, built in 2005. Here even the boring office blocks are astonishing.
A little further down the road there was an odd crescent shaped structure that appeared to be made from twisted copper wire, woven almost like a basket. This is Parque de Investigación Biomédica de Barcelona, the biomedical research building,or PRBB designed by architects Manel Brullet and Albert de Pineda. At the edge of the park we came across a sculpture that made us smile, an incredibly long pair of shapely bronze legs culminating in a rounded behind. I must admit that we took a little detour to see what she looked like from the other side only to find that this particular lady was perfectly symmetrical, all backside and no front. How strange! She is actually called Le Cul (or the arse) and was created by Eduardo Úrculo for the Olympic Games, I’m beginning to wonder if there was anything in this area of Barcelona before the games?
We continued on to Carrer de la Marina until we came to a huge fountain surrounded by jets of water so fine they looked like little white puffs of cloud hovering above the ground. I was tempted to stop right there and dip my aching feet in. Another strange sculpture overlooked the fountain, a kind of Picasso face suspended in the air. This, it turns out, is called David and Goliath, sculpted by Antonio Llena, quite what it has to do with the biblical characters I’m not sure though. By now we could almost smell the sea and my feet were begging to be paddled in the cool salt water. I almost ran the rest of the way, past the less than attractive Hotel Arts (a building that looks like it is covered with white scaffolding – but what do I know?) ignoring the beachfront restaurants and across the little decking bridge.
As soon as we reached the sand I whipped off my shoes and padded down to the sea. I’m sure my hot feet hissed as they hit the cold water. It was bliss. The beach was clean and not too crowded and we spent a happy hour or so with the cool salt water lapping at our toes until hunger got the better of us and we thought we’d better find somewhere to eat.
Looking back up at the buildings lining the beach I noticed another bizarre building, or was it a sculpture, it was hard to tell. Like a massive fish made from some kind of copper mesh. At the time I didn’t realise but I was looking at Frank Gehry’s fish sculpture, built in 1992 as a landmark for the Olympic village. In Prague I marvelled at his dancing house without realising it was the work of the same architect. Thank you Google for letting me know, I will be sure to look for more of his work in the future.
Tearing our eyes away from the strange sculpture/building, we considered all the beachfront restaurants, offering so many tempting treats from oriental to traditional Spanish food. Most were crowded and, looking at the menus displayed outside, they seemed quite pricey so, reluctantly, I put my shoes back on and we walked back towards the park. On Carrer de la Marina we found a little parade of shops and restaurants quite out of the way and almost hidden from the road. This looked more like our kind of place, not too showy, more like somewhere the locals would eat. There were tables with parasols outside El Rey de Tapas Bar Restaurant so we decided to take a seat and try our luck.
The waitress was great and not at all phased by our appalling Spanish and the tapas menu was mouth watering. The only problem we had was choosing. Eventually we narrowed it down to Bombas Picantes (big spicy breadcrumb covered meat and potato balls), Tapa Sal Chichon (Catalan Salami), Pinchos de Morruno (shish kebabs), Tapa Champinonos (amazing garlicy mushrooms that melt in the mouth), and Tapa Tortillia Patatas (potato omelettes) plus some garlic and sun dried tomato bread. I would have liked some calamari but Commando isn’t keen so it seemed greedy to have something we couldn’t share (I will have to take my son, Mini Commando, with me next time as he adores sea food so we will be able to fill our boots with octopus, squid and fish). To wash it all down we had very welcome jug of Sangria.
It was wonderful sitting on the street in the sun, relaxing and watching the world pass by. Not long after our last dish arrived I felt a few spots of rain but, as the sun was still shining, I wasn’t too concerned. After a long day in the hot sun a little shower seemed quite a welcome thing. When the shower turned to drizzle and then to a downpour the waitress came out to ask if we wanted to move inside. She shrugged her shoulders in bemusement when we said no, after all we were under a huge umbrella and, as we explained, we are English so we’re used to the rain. I guess it’s no surprise the world thinks the English are mad sitting under a parasol in the pouring rain eating tapas!
After our meal and a lovely cappuccino topped with lashings of cream the rain showed no sign of stopping. Reluctantly we left the shelter of our parasol and squelched off towards Parc de la Ciutadlla on our way back to Estacio de Franca. Wearing just our t-shirts and short trousers we stood out from the locals who had all miraculously produced umbrellas and raincoats from somewhere. Luckily it was still warm so although we were soaked to the skin we weren’t at all cold.
We made it to the park and decided to walk through it to get a little bit of shelter from the trees. This turned out to be a great idea as we stumbled upon a metro station, Ciutadella Vila Olimpica so we dashed inside dripping and got out our metro map. We saw that we could get a train to Passeig De Gràcia but would have to get out there and change to the train station to get back to El Prat. Still the rain would have stopped by then wouldn’t it?
The dark clouds had made it like dusk when we left the park, even though it was only late afternoon. By the time we stumbled back out onto Passeig De Gràcia it was as dark as night and the rain was torrential. Dodging the crowds and the opportunist North Africans trying to sell us umbrellas for €5 we managed to make it to the station dripping wet but still warm and laughing. At El Prat station we peered out at the dark and tried to will the rain to stop. If anything it seemed to be getting worse, not only was it still pouring down but now dramatic lightning and thunder had joined the rain. The umbrellas I’d refused on Passeig De Gràcia and the little fold up one I’d taken out of my handbag to make room for my make up bag back in the UK haunted me. It’s a good ten-minute walk from El Prat station to Minotel Ciutat del Prat and it looked like it was going to be a very wet one.
Despite the fact my shoes were full of water and I could feel rain running down my back inside my clothes the walk through the dark, deserted streets back to the hotel was exhilarating. The storm was so spectacular we kept stopping to look between the buildings at the lightning forking across the sky like a huge free fireworks display. We were almost disappointed to find ourselves back outside the hotel.